Confronted by the anonymous spectral faces framed on the sleeve of this CD it was comforting to read that JǒŞhǔA is a side project of the great Joe Cassady and the West End Sound. Featuring Cassady himself and his superb guitar player Shu Nakamura we were ready for another dose of literate and wry observations delivered with aplomb in a country folk style as in last year’s The Chymical Vegas Wedding“ However the PR blurb stating they had “got a bit bored by what they were doing and did something else” should have alerted me. JǒŞhǔA don’t deliver hummable melodies or toe tapping tunes, instead they delve into the dark recesses of the soul with a piledriver percussive sound and distorted voices that reek of danger and doom. Think of Krautrock, Tom Waits, Johnny Dowd, Harry Partch, add in some Lee Hazelwood, Beat poetry, Tibetan bells and top it off with a dusting of Joujukan master musicians and you’re in the territory this pair inhabit. In fact they say it better themselves describing their influences as “garbage cans, screaming children, half-empty bottles, half-full bottles, deer antlers, tambourines, mortal flesh, pots, pans, vocal chords, squeaky chairs, sheets of paper, the words on the paper, bells, whistles, the whole bag of chips, etc.”
With such a smorgasbord of sounds it’s a tribute to the pair of them that the album is a bit of a triumph. See-sawing between spoken word poems accompanied by a jangled cacophony and more intimate and tender spooky ballads all is weird in here. In Thee O Lord which opens the album is a trance like invocation that recalls the opiate nightmares of William Burroughs, Unstarted Symphony is a whirling percussive dervish and Dear Words throbs like a heart beating to burst. By comparison Don’t Let them Hurt You sounds almost tender despite the surreal sci-fi imagery. It’s a genuine surprise to find a Christmas song towards the end of the album. Christmas Eve 2012 is jaunty with a faux country feel but listen to the lyrics and you soon release that you’re still in JǒŞhǔA land.
In Thee O Lord